Blue vervain herb in flower
Chuan xin lian – andrographis herb
Yarrow leaf and flower
Pu gong ying – dandelion root and herb
Niu bang zi – burdock seed
Jing jie – schizonepeta herb
Sheng gan cao – licorice root
Reduce or eliminate symptoms of cold and flu, especially fever, sore throat, cough, and body aches. Virus Killer should also be considered for ear infections, staph or strep infections, herpes, shigellosis, and most other illnesses in which a viral or bacterial origin is suspected. NOTE: this formula is for TREATING cold and flu; don’t take it long-term to try to avoid getting sick. The formula to strengthen the immune system to AVOID cold and flu is Jade Defense REISHI.
The best way to take this formula is at the very start of a cold, in combination with steam inhalation. So, when you first start feeling like you might be getting sick, don’t shrug it off and go to bed! Take some Virus Killer and do fifteen minutes on your Kaz brand personal steam inhaler, inhaling deeply through the nose so that the heat of the steam weakens the virus’ ability to adhere to your mucus membranes. Repeat the next morning.
First couple days: take six squirts of Virus Killer every three hours.
Next few days: even if you are asymptomatic, take four squirts of Virus Killer every eight hours (three times a day). This is important, as colds can come roaring back after first appearing to go away, if you don’t continue with the herbs. Sometimes a virus is just too strong and will successfully resist your attempts at killing it. Even so, don’t give in and stop taking your herbs. Virus Killer can shorten the duration and intensity of a cold or flu.
This is one formula that I recommend NOT squirting into boiling water to boil off the alcohol. Many of the active compounds are aromatics that you want to get into YOU, not into the air. Take it straight up or cut with cold water.
This is an original formulation that has been in research and development for the last year or so. Its three main actions are antiviral, diaphoretic (makes you sweat), and expectorant.
The largest component of the formula consists of the three main antiviral herbs: lomatium, blue vervain, and andrographis. Lomatium dissectum, a large-rooted plant growing throughout the Great Basin, has been used as medicine by Native Americans and settlers for many years. Its many aromatic resins act as an expectorant and disinfectant to the lungs and bronchi, as the body excretes them through the alveoli. During the influenza epidemic of the early 1920’s, it was noticed that mortality among Native American groups using the herb was far lower than that of the surrounding population.
Blue vervain grows widely in our region, seeming to do fine in sunny dry dusty areas, where it stays small and compact, and thriving as a large showy plant when transplanted into gardens. With its purple flowers that climb up its long branching spikes during the course of a summer, it is quite beautiful. In addition to its antiviral properties, blue vervain acts as a mild sedative, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, and expectorant. Its bitterness acts not only to clear heat but to settle the stomach. It also helps to allay the aches and pains that often accompany the flu – especially when that pain is in the neck area. Overall, an excellent herb when you’re sick (“the best herb for flu,” according to my teacher Brian Weissbuch).
Andrographis is an extremely bitter herb used in Chinese medicine and in Ayurveda. Unlike blue vervain, whose bitterness I find to be pristine and bracing, andrographis' bitterness is shudder-provoking and kind of disgusting. This makes Virus Killer one of my worst-tasting formulas. Like lomatium, andrographis is not only antiviral but broadly antimicrobial, making it valuable in the treatment of infections of all types.
One last herb that is included as an antiviral is poke root (Phytolacca americana). In addition to being a promising anti-cancer herb, poke includes a component known as “pokeweed antiviral protein” (PAP), making it useful against various types of viruses. In larger doses poke root is quite toxic, and in this formula I use a near-homeopathic dosage of one drop per four-squirt dose, to stimulate the immune system.
Sometimes, herbs like lomatium and andrographis are marketed as “herbal antibiotics.” But this approach is too simplistic. Andrographis is so cold and bitter that, by itself, it can wreck the digestion and cause diarrhea. Lomatium by itself can cause an outbreak of hives. As with regular antibiotics, the use of a single intense herbal medicine can result in unwanted side effects. It is for this reason that we craft herbal formulas: teams of herbs working together in your body to mitigate unwanted effects while maximizing the desired ones. In the case of Virus Killer, the pairing of lomatium and andrographis is a kind of a “formula within a formula:” lomatium is warm and spicy, offsetting the cold bitter nature of the andrographis. To make this formula even more balanced, we also add diaphoretics, additional expectorants, and a liver-stimulating diuretic.
When we get sick with a cold or flu, this signals that a pathogen has managed to get past the body’s “defensive qi,” whose job is to circulate near the surface of the body, keeping invaders out. Therefore, we have to use diaphoretics: herbs that make us sweat. The idea is that along with the sweat that the herbs push through our pores, the invaders are also being pushed out. At the same time, the cooling effect of the sweat helps to lower fever. The chief herbs that accomplish these things here are yarrow, schizonepeta, and burdock seed. The yarrow is itself antimicrobial, adding to the pathogen-fighting power of the formula, and also pairs nicely with blue vervain to settle the stomach. Schizonepeta (jing jie), one of the stronger diaphoretics in Chinese medicine, is useful not just for colds but for skin rashes of many types, a trait shared with burdock seed (niu bang zi). My belief is that the surface-relieving power of these diaphoretics helps to dissipate any tendency towards hives that the lomatium could bring out in sensitive individuals. Burdock seed is also one of the main herbs for sore throat, one of the most annoying early symptoms of cold and flu.
In addition to diaphoretics, we add herbal expectorants to the mix. The main one here is elecampane root. Like lomatium, elecampane is rich with resins that help to disinfect and dislodge mucus in the lungs. Because of the tendency of cold and flu viruses to settle in the lungs, it is extremely important not just to kill the virus but to moisten and clear the lungs. Elecampane and licorice are both excellent herbs to do this. Licorice has the added benefit of helping the burdock seed treat sore throat.
Finally, dandelion stands alone as a strong diuretic and stimulant to liver metabolism. Following Michael Moore, I believe that we need to support the liver during the active phase of cold and flu treatment. Just as dead bloodied bodies can clog the landscape after a big battle, our bodies can get clogged with the junk that accompanies viral die-off. The expectorants help move this junk out of the lungs, and the diaphoretics help move it out the skin, but the liver (of course with an assist from the kidneys) can help move it more directly out of the blood and into the urine, with which it leaves the body. In a similar vein, by enhancing liver function, dandelion lessens the probability that you will develop hives from the sometimes-metabolically-problematical lomatium. Dandelion also pairs well with andrographis to “relieve heat and toxicity” and treat infections.
The blue vervain, yarrow, dandelion, and poke root were extracted as fresh tinctures using 70 – 95% ethanol. The remaining herbs were purchased dried, then were ground and percolated with 50 – 60% ethanol. Overall strength is about 1:4. Lately I have been using a larger volume of solvent to percolate, feeling that it is wasteful to not extract every last bit of good out of the herbs (even with a good press, I have this inkling that thar’s some good stuff left in them dregs). I’ve also been experimenting with hot percolation, heating the solvent to the boiling point of ethanol just prior to percolation.
Why Are There No Herbs for Stuffy Nose In This Formula?
Yes, that stuffy drippy nose is another bothersome symptoms of many colds and flu. However, I believe that drying out the nose and sinuses too early in the progression of a cold is not a good thing. The reason for the copious snot output in the first place is precisely to help your body flush out the virus. If you follow my advice and do the steam inhalation at the first signs of infection, you may find that the steam precipitates a bout of sneezing and nose-blowing that hastens the nasal/sinus phase of the cold and gets it over within twenty minutes. If, despite steaming and Virus Killer you end up with a stuffed up or runny nose, give it a few days and then combine with (or switch to) Nasal/Sinus Formula. In my experience, Nasal/Sinus Formula is great for allergies and for the tail end of a cold, but not for the start of a cold. Some saline flushing (neti pot) will also help move the mucus out of your nose and sinuses.